Illinois hosts 44th annual North American Power Symposium
The 2012 North American Power Symposium (NAPS) was hosted by the University of Illinois on September 9-11. ECE Assistant Professor Alejandro Dominguez-Garcia was the chair for the event held at the I Hotel and Convention Center. NAPS is well known for being very student centered and recognizes student best efforts through awards presented at the end of the symposium.
This year’s conference featured scholars from universities as far away as Arizona State, Washington State, and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras in Chennai, India.
The symposium encompassed a wide variety of topics in power, including power systems, climate and weather, smart meters, and integration. The conference is held annually at a university. The last time Illinois hosted the conference was in 1981 when it was known as the Midwest Power Symposium (MPS); ECE Professor Peter Sauer was the chair at that time.
NAPS also featured three plenary speakers: Gerald Heydt, professor at Arizona State University, on “The History of the North American Power Symposium”; Robin Podmore, the founder and president of IncSys, on “Accelerating Your Career in the Power Industry”; and Wanda Reder, vice president of the Power Systems Services Division at S&C Electric Company, on “Lighting the Way to a Smarter Grid.”
Planning the conference of this size took a lot of work, over nearly a full nine months. But now that it's done, Dominguez-Garcia said it was well worth it. “I was working with very good people so they actually made things very easy throughout the process,” Dominguez-Garcia said.
As a first-time conference organizer, Dominguez-Garcia relied on a lot of help to put it together. He had assistance from Joyce Mast, program and symposium assistant; Robin Smith, symposium assistant; Stanton Cady, Webmaster; Professor Sauer, treasurer and symposium co-chair; and ECE Professor Thomas J Overbye, technical program chair and symposium co-chair.
Overbye has attended NAPS since 1993, and his familiarity with the conference was invaluable during the organization. Sauer’s experience as MPS chair in 1981 was also key in running a smooth conference “A lot of the tricks he used back in the day I used [during the conference],” Dominguez-Garcia said. “I learned a lot from both of them.”
Running a conference like this does bring challenges. "The toughest challenge for this type of conference came in making quick, urgent decisions," Dominguez-Garcia said. "My normal mode of operation is to take time to think before making any decisions, but in the period right before and during the conference, if something comes up you have to react quickly. So it was a different decision-making process than the one I am used too."
Dominguez-Garcia said he is grateful for the help from University of Illinois graduate students. “A portion of our grad students go into academic careers,” Dominguez-Garcia said. “So further down the line, they’re going to be organizing these things themselves. But for the people not going into academia, they are going to have positions in companies, perhaps, and it’s important for them to learn how to run these things.”
Those students in the power program were responsible among other things for setting up housing accommodations for students, maintaining the website, driving the shuttle back and forth the airport, and making sure the sessions ran smoothly. "They did a lot of the heavy lifting," Dominguez-Garcia said about the student volunteers.
Among the students that presented papers at the conference, three of them received Best-Paper Awards consisting of an iPad. The recipients of these awards were students from Texas A&M, Wisconsin, and Arizona State. As a sign of the quality of the Illinois power students, it is worth noting that they always rank very high in the NAPS student paper contest. For example, this year Stanton Cady came out fourth in a close race with the first three winners; in NAPS 2011, which was held in Boston, MA, Yu Chen and Xichen Jiang co-authored the paper that won the best paper award; in NAPS 2010, which was held in Arlington, TX, Sudipta Dutta won the second place in the paper contest.